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Cold Hard Facts

Laura Miller offers up a few cold hard facts for aspiring writers in this Salon piece. Here’s the gist of it:

“Yet while there's no shortage of good novels out there, there is a shortage of readers for these books. Even authors who achieve what probably seems like Nirvana to the average NaNoWriMo participant -- publication by a major house -- will, for the most part, soon learn this dispiriting truth: Hardly anyone will read their books and next to no one will buy them.

“So I'm not worried about all the books that won't get written if a hundred thousand people with a nagging but unfulfilled ambition to Be a Writer lack the necessary motivation to get the job done. I see no reason to cheer them on. Writers are, in fact, hellishly persistent; they will go on writing despite overwhelming evidence of public indifference and (in many cases) of their own lack of ability or anything especially interesting to say. Writers have a reputation for being tormented by their lot, probably because they're always moaning so loudly about how hard it is, but it's the readers who are fragile, a truly endangered species. They don't make a big stink about how underappreciated they are; like Tinkerbell or any other disbelieved-in fairy, they just fade away.

“Rather than squandering our applause on writers -- who, let's face, will keep on pounding the keyboards whether we support them or not -- why not direct more attention, more pep talks, more nonprofit booster groups, more benefit galas and more huzzahs to readers? Why not celebrate them more heartily? They are the bedrock on which any literary culture must be built. After all, there's not much glory in finally writing that novel if it turns out there's no one left to read it.”

Read the whole thing here .

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Fascinating. A bit of a bummer when I've 2 researched ideas for NaNoWriMo, at least one of which has a targeted paying audience; however, I enjoy the post.

Your journal is interesting to me; thanks for continuing.

The entire publishing industry is a bummer. Full of largely underpaid unimaginative people who have no clue what will sell, and what won't, but nevertheless pretend they do.

Ha! I imagine that, like most industries, this is true.

I write because it's who I am and what I love. Whether or not anyone reads it is not my main fueling reason; it simply seems to be what sticks in my life and has since I made myself learn to write (early) when I was 3...so that I could get my own library card.

Yes, I love to read first and foremost. I started to write my "first book" when I was around 7. I didn't finish it, but it felt lovely.

Did you have Young Authors when you were in school? I loved that part of the year best.

My school mates half a century ago were for the most part ignorant know-nothings, and goddamned proud of it. I spent all of my time in the public library, reading and reading and scribbling in my diary, a habit I've kept all my life. Seems to me that you don't choose writing, rather it chooses you.

I have a photographer friend that tells me that it is increasingly difficult to make a career in the field these days because amateurs are so eager for exposure that they are giving their photographs away. Perhaps this is the way that all art is going? I often wonder if the internet and writing organizations of this sort are promoting... well, a sort of dilution of art. There are still checkpoints, so to speak, maybe? On the other hand, I suppose that a handful of great artists have faded out of history because their works did not receive exposure - and now, perhaps, the internet, particularly blogs, has created a potentially timeless bank for the works of these artists.

Unrelated, I half expected to see pictures of the Stewart-Colbert rally posted on your LJ.

Photography is done by so many these days that only the most aggressive and determined business people manage to make a living out of it. Emphasis on business and not talent. Marketing has never been any artist's strong suit.

I was tempted to go to that rally but didn't because I knew it would not come close to the huge anti-Vietnam-war demonstration a long time ago in Washington where I witnessed Allen Ginsberg leading the mob in chanting OMMMMMMM in an attempt to levitate the Pentagon.

Thinking about it, I suppose that a lot of photography is more business-oriented than the rest of the artistic world. Or maybe all art is more about marketing than the product?

Oh, wow, that sounds really awesome. I can't say that you missed anything other than a huge crowd wielding funny signs. The rally seemed to be more about what it wasn't than what it was - but, if nothing else, the crowd was about three times bigger than Glenn Beck's rally.

You can make the most brilliant literary or visual art but unless you get professional representation it almost certainly will go unpublished, unseen. Unless you know someone important who has access or clout.

It's no surprise that a slew of mediocre writers and artists make big bucks, but again it's because they or their reps are relentless in peddling the work.

As for pitching my own two books, I've been getting one rejection after another by literary agents but I absolutely refuse to guarantee failure by quitting.

I'll either succeed, or die trying.

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